Talk can really be cheap

The other day I went back to the VoIP program Skype and was frankly delighted with what I found.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), for those who haven’t heard of it, is basically a means of talking and/or video conferencing over the Internet rather than over conventional telephone lines.

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Skype was one of the pioneers who brought VoIP to the attention of the mass market and alerted us to the major cost savings we could make by talking to our friends and relatives overseas, for no more than the cost than our Internet connections, which we were paying for anyway.

The fact that both parties to the conversation had to have computers and be sitting in front of them was a small inconvenience, when set against the high price of conventional telephone calls.

I did use the program quite a lot and I know of many people who did so too. One time, when I had to reinstall all my software, I didn’t bother with Skype and there the matter rested until very recently, when I was reminded that Skype can also put calls through to landlines or mobiles in foreign countries.

I decided to give it a go and downloaded the latest version of the program from Skype.com. It’s a small download, it installs quickly, and I found the interface was instantly familiar.

It has the same functionality for finding and talking free to online contacts but you have the option of buying Skype credits and using these to call people on landlines and mobiles in any number of different countries.

Credits are available in a number of different currencies and I managed to log in and buy EUR10s’ worth with my credit card, thinking that, although it wouldn’t last too long, it would be enough to give the system a bit of test.

How wrong I was! That it would soon run out, I mean.

I was amazed to discover that a call from my computer to a landline number in Brisbane costs the princely sum of EUR1.7 cents per minute. My maths isn’t great but I work that out to be just over 16 of our cents.

I spoke to the family for 48 minutes and it cost me all of EUR87 cents, a marked contrast to Telkom’s current charge of R1.09 per minute during peak hours

The quality of the calls I have experienced using Skype have been great and I have definitely saved myself quite a lot of money in the process. The company is very keen to sell their service to businesses as well, and I guess it would be up to individual businesses to determine how best to implement it.

Many pages on the Skype website warn that the service should not be used for emergency phone calls and I guess that would also apply to mission-critical business applications. I have no doubt, though, that it could save businesses a significant amount of money when used alongside an existing telephone system.

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